Fans of TBS’s hit comedy/mystery series Search Party were treated to a conversation Sunday night with the show’s co-writers and co-directors, Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers, as part of the New Orleans Film Festival.
Search Party, which premiered in the fall of 2016 on TBS, follows a group of friends—Dory (Alia Shawkat), Portia (Meredith Hagner), Elliott (John Early), and Drew (John Reynolds)—who must deal with the disastrous consequences of trying to track down missing classmate Chantal (Clare McNulty). Season 2 premieres next month.
The discussion, held at The New Orleans Advocate’s downtown office, was moderated by Paste Magazine’s Matthew Brennan. (Paste calls Search Party one of the best new shows of 2016.) Here are some highlights:
Matthew Brennan: The show combines comedy and mystery that I haven’t seen before. What inspired you?
Charles Rogers: We’d made a feature film called Fort Tilden a few years ago that played at the NOFF (2012) and we had like the satirical millennial thing and…we’d been thinking of lots of hooks for a TV show and we started working with Michael Showalter who is also a co-creator and was our teacher at NYU, and he set us up with a production company, JAX, and they ended up with the idea of slapping this mystery element onto our show. They called us up and we were like, ‘um, yeah, that actually sounds like a lot of fun.’ It was weirdly almost like a homework assignment.
Sarah Violet-Bliss: And we also were very excited by that. We love movies like Manhattan Murder Mystery, and we were just really inspired to combine genres.
Bliss says that the characters’ voices were already built in Fort Tilden, and similarly to the film, the characters in Search Party are put in situations they’re not equipped for.
And this sense of unpreparedness for their situation is only heightened in Season 2.
CR: Season 2 is all about covering up a murder and what it is to just feel like a contemporary person who has quietly killed a person and has to go back to, like, Brooklyn, and what does that even look like? … What would it be like to have blood on your hands and then be like, ‘I gotta get a job’, or ‘we gotta go to brunch,’ and just, the truth of the fact that life goes on – maybe not the life of the person you killed, but yours does.
MB: The show had some amount of critical acclaim in the first season, and I think viewers caught on to it. Was there added pressure to follow up?
CR: Personally I feel like the pressure…was something that we weren’t even talking about but it was always there and it made, I think it made us, I think it’s impossible not to be confused by pressure, pressure’s not good, but it’s also, it gave us reasons to set a bar.
MB: Do you guys go around in your daily lives with a notepad and just write down the ridiculous s–t that people in our age group say.
SVB: A little bit. I definitely very much internalize it, and I think we both really listen a lot to what people are saying and sometimes I do take out my iphone and notes to be like, ‘oh my god.’ People are having normal conversations, but there’s just a level to them that they, that when they’re in it they’re not recognizing how it sounds.
MB: There’s an idea in the ether that TV is where the creative freedom is…I wonder if, since you guys work in both, what your assessment is?
SVB: In TV, we want things to be clear and not have too much, ‘what did that mean?’ There is sort of a more audience friendliness to it, if that makes sense, but I like that.
CR: I think that right now there’s just so much more money in TV that so many more shows are able to take risks and be smaller and not everything has to be Empire.
But shooting in New York City, Rogers says, is difficult no matter the medium, so it doesn’t feel very different. The main difference, Rogers says:
“On Search Party, we have chairs.”
Search Party Season 2 premieres on November 19th on TBS.